San Miguel, Magnolia draw PBA semis first blood

MANILA, Philippines – PBA fans were treated to a nail-biting semifinal delight where two of the most popular teams in the PBA collided intending to cop a golden ticket to the championship round.

The San Miguel Beermen, with CJ Perez’s game-high 26-point performance, secured a 1-0 advantage after trouncing Brgy. Ginebra 92-90 on January 24, 2024 at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

CJ Perez erupted for a game-high 26 points
CJ Perez erupted for a game-high 26 points as SMB took Game 1 home versus Ginebra. Photo Credit:

As rare as lightning strikes the same person twice, PBA fans can witness sister teams slug it all out in the Commissioner’s Cup Semifinals as Brgy. Ginebra Gin Kings duel San Miguel Beermen in a best-of-five series.

Being the league’s most offensive teams, both squads didn’t need too much time to gauge each other like a boxing match. As soon as the opening tipoff happened, the players exchanged firepower, where Scottie Thompson led the Kings, and Bennie Boatwright spearheaded SMB.

At the end of the first 12 minutes of the intense ballgame, the Beermen had an ample 28-20 lead, where Boatwright and Don Trollano had 8 points apiece.

Come the second quarter, Ginebra started to trail and closed the gap by dropping bombs from the three-point territory courtesy of Maverick Ahanmisi and Stanley Pringle.

Just as the Gins managed to narrow the lead, San Miguel’s prolific import joined the shooting spree backed up by the flashy guards who owned the shaded lane to ramp up the lead to 9.

Truly, there’s no big lead that's safe in the PBA; SMB’s almost double-digit lead was gone in just a glimpse. The tides turned in favor of Barangay Ginebra where guarding Boatwright paid off and tied the game at 47-all at the end of the first half.

Magnolia dismantles Phoenix

Before this thrilling game, Magnolia Hotshots drew the first blood in the Commissioner’s Cup Semis after dismantling the gritty Phoenix Super LPG Fuelmasters, 82-79 where Tyler Bey won the Best Player of the Game with a 23-10 double-double performance.

Jason Perkins had a good chance to extend the game to an OT but the “Hefty Lefty’s” game-tying triple rimmed out. Despite the loss, Phoenix put up a gallant stand against the crowd-favorite Hotshots.

A 15-minute halftime break is all Ginebra needed to finally take the advantage. The better news was, that Tony Bishop broke out of his silence and joined 3 Gin Kings who had 11 markers at least with 2 periods to go.

SMB ultimately released “The Kraken” to regain their lead. June Mar Fajardo posted a dozen digits with over a couple of minutes left in the penultimate quarter. The Beermen’s celebration however was momentary as the Gins went for the 73-deadlock entering the final canto.

Ginebra did a terrific job in containing Boatwright who’s known for dropping humongous numbers since his PBA debut. But tonight, the tallest import was way behind his usual contribution.

Despite Boatwright’s lower output in this game, CJ Perez took the driver’s seat to steer their team to a renewed advantage.

With a few minutes left on the game clock, Perez and Bishop traded baskets that pumped up the fans.

At the 2-minute warning, the paying patrons were all on their feet as the players dove for every ball possession and increased the physicality on the hardwood, wanting to break the tied ballgame for a 1-0 semis lead reward at the end.

Fajardo split his charities for a half-shot lead with 23 ticks remaining in the clock. Ginebra had a few chances to take the game home but failed to secure it and officially handed the win over to San Miguel 92-90.

Game 2 will be on Friday, January 26 at the Araneta Coliseum where both teams still have the opportunity to take a breather and recalibrate their respective game plans.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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